For the sixth time in as many seasons, the State College Spikes held their annual kick-off event, SpikesFest, as the 2012 New York-Penn League season looms on the horizon.
The event, which was held Sunday at the Penn State Multi-Sport Indoor Facility, was the largest one yet. It's billed as "a giant indoor baseball carnival."
"We wanted to create a game-day atmosphere -- minus the baseball game -- in the dead of winter. And it's a great opportunity for us as a team to connect with our fans and allow families to come out and beat the cabin fever," Spikes General Manager Jason Dambach said.
The four-hour event featured bounce houses, batting practice, a dance routine from the Penn State majorettes and a table representing Shaver's Creek Environmental Center, among other attractions. While the event is geared toward entertainment, Dambach said, it also was an opportunity for community organizations to showcase what they have to offer.
"We try to mix in the fun stuff, but also provide groups with opportunities to put on performances and entertain the crowd," he said. "And the Shaver's Creek folks help us include the education element, as well."
As Penn State nears THON weekend, the Spikes dedicated a portion of the event proceeds to Coaches vs. Cancer. A silent auction featured items such as an Alex Rodriguez-signed photograph, a LeSean McCoy-signed University of Pittsburgh helmet and a Pete Rose-autographed bat, as well as a variety of other memorabilia.
"We have our event at the same time the Coaches vs. Cancer committee is working with Penn State basketball, so the timing of it really works out well," Dambach said.
Pittsburgh Pirates catching prospect Matt Skirving was a main attraction. As he signed autographs for fan after fan, he reflected on his time in State College and how it will help him progress through the professional baseball ranks.
"This is the first time I've ever been at SpikesFest, and it's just incredible to see the venue and all the fans come in during the middle of winter; it's pretty cool," Skirving said. "I head to spring training in two weeks. And this being my second year, I know how to better handle the daily grind. And I had a pretty good season in State College last year, and I hope that I can carry that over into spring training and keep going up."
The official attendance count was unavailable late Sunday afternoon, but Dambach estimated well more than 1,000 fans attended. The next major event for the team is the Spikes' Ticket Palooza, where all regular-season tickets go on sale, set for mid-April.